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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 19, Dated 12 May 2012

    Vicky Donor is born

    Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedi talk with Sunaina Kumar about how one successful sperm makes a baby but 53 make a sleeper hit movie

    Shoojit Sircar with Juhi Chaturvedi

    Mission accomplished Shoojit Sircar with Juhi Chaturvedi

    Photo: Himmat Singh Shekhawat

    DIRECTOR SHOOJIT Sircar is sitting in his office with scriptwriter Juhi Chaturvedi turning over the many ideas they almost went with. They considered calling the movie, ‘Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan’, ‘Father’s Day’, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, before finally settling upon the straight shot, Vicky Donor. The writer-director team had planned for Vicky to spawn 120 children, but decided instead on the comparably conservative 53. A week after the film has been declared a sleeper hit, they both can afford to sieve through rejected ideas with an air of self-satisfaction.

    Vicky Donor did not have the star advantage of the other two touted indie films of the year, no Irrfan Khan to sprint home in Paan Singh Tomar and no Vidya Balan, the female Khan to shape a Kahaani. If you count out Annu Kapoor’s pitch perfect rendition of fertility specialist Dr Baldev Chaddha and Ayushmann Khurrana’s Punju slacker boy Vicky Arora, the hero of Vicky Donor is the squiggly-shaped sperm that turns up in every second frame of the film. To borrow from Dr Chaddha’s many sperm categories, (“confused sperm”, “greedy sperm”), the odds were in favour of flop sperm. But, Vicky Donor, made on a budget of Rs 5 crore, had collections of over Rs 13 crore worldwide on the opening weekend (according to the distributors Eros International), and created a buzz comparable to Khosla Ka Ghosla six years ago.

    Is it coincidence that director Dibakar Banerjee and writer Jaideep Sahni of Khosla Ka Ghosla were also from advertising? Sircar, 43, is a prominent ad filmmaker in Mumbai (his latest campaign is for Gujarat featuring Amitabh Bachchan), and Chaturvedi, 37, is a creative director at Bates. They’ve worked together in ad films for Titan and Saffola, and Chaturvedi also wrote the dialogue for Sircar’s second film, the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Shoebite, which was stalled. Chaturvedi says advertising has trained them to answer the question, “Idea kya hai?” in one line with no room for dithering, and a clutter-breaking approach. As the mother of a one-year-old, Chaturvedi says she saw many couples around her unable to conceive. With her ad-training imprinted, she called up Sircar and pitched this line, “What if we make a film on the life of a sperm donor who goes around donating sperm but can’t have a child himself?”

    They also collectively credit their advertising background for the detailing of milieu and characters that have been much lauded in the film. Every colony in Delhi has a Dolly Beauty Parlour, run by a gregarious and generously proportioned Dolly Aunty, who can be seen chopping bhindi in the hive of grooming activity around her. The Lajpat Nagar house, narrow and poky, with a quintessential barsati is immediately familiar. The Bengalis of CR Park, who consider themselves a cut above the culture of the city are recognisably caricatured. For both Sircar and Chaturvedi, who have lived and worked in Delhi, Shoojit in CR Park and Juhi in Lajpat Nagar, creating the backdrop and characters was practically effortless. “It could not have been a Bombay film,” says Sircar, “The clinic, the nosy neighbours, Vicky’s concern about what people think, even the humour could only be from Delhi.” He says the film has been liked well because it is rooted to one place and is honest to it.

    The hero of Vicky Donor is the squiggly-shaped sperm that turns up in every second frame of the film

    It took them nine months to ready the final draft. They laugh as they realise how apt that gestation period is. The second half of the film is the part they struggled with, and tellingly the plot there has discernible loopholes. Film critic Raja Sen says the climax is drawn out excruciatingly but the film comes together surprisingly well overall, sharper and peopled by more genuinely interesting characters than the average Bollywood comedy. One of those is the feisty Beeji (played by Kamlesh Gill) who swigs drinks and swaps stories with her daughter-in-law. The scene was added by Sircar who shared the same occasional ritual with his mother.

    Vicky Donor fits the category of the “Zara hatke!” films that film academic Rachel Dwyer correlates with the emergence of a new middle-class sensibility in a 2011 essay on Hindi cinema. Sircar says that he can’t imagine directing a potboiler, but there is space for both in Bollywood. He compares his work with that of Dibakar Banerjee (Khosla Ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye) and Habib Faisal (Band Baaja Baaraat and Do Dooni Chaar) whom he credits with picking fresh ideas from forgotten parts of the country. With Vicky Donor, he hoped to also pay tribute to the simple and believable characters of his icon, Satyajit Ray.

    SIRCAR’S DEBUT film Yahaan (a love story set in the backdrop of terrorism in Kashmir) was based on an article he found in a newspaper. With his next film Jaffna starring Vicky Donor producer John Abraham, he moves on to the crisis in Sri Lanka, and Hamara Bajaj (with Ayushmann) is the story of a struggling actor in a small town.

    Debutant writer Chaturvedi has already moved to writing her next film starring Amitabh Bachchan. She says she attempted to emulate her cinematic guru Hrishikesh Mukherjee in Vicky Donor. The humour in Hrishi da tradition had to be situational and clean. The trickiest part, she says, was to steer clear of the nudge and wink jokes that the subject is suggestive of — Apna haath jagannath and Veerya (Hindi for sperm) Pratap Singh, were popular suggestions made by friends.

    Annu Kapoor, whose career has been resurrected with the movie, was initially apprehensive about doing the wiggly hand movement that denotes sperm. Sircar convinced him that none of the treatment would be crude and Kapoor ended up contributing lines of his own, like “pain in the sperm”. Kapoor, with three decades of experience, considers himself lucky to be a part of what he terms “a turning point in Hindi cinema”, as a new set of filmmakers finds a different voice.

    The film has made some headway in starting a conversation on sperm donation. Dr Aniruddha Malpani, a fertility specialist in Mumbai and adviser on the film, says his clinic has been flooded with emails from prospective donors. Vicky Donor to the rescue.

    Sunaina Kumar is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 19, Dated 12 May 2012



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